New Horizons, Pluto and God: 3 lessons that will blow your mind

New Horizons, Pluto and 3 awe-inspiring lessons about God

Artist’s concept. Source: NASA

One of my favorite magazines is National Geographic, which may seem kind of odd coming from someone who holds a worldview quite different from that of the award-winning publication.

But while National Geographic may be void of explicit Christian or even theistic commentary, each month it does a stellar job in showcasing the wonders of God through its pictures, illustrations and text – even if the editors and writers don’t realize it.

God wants us to marvel at His creation, but in the irony of ironies, it’s often the naturalists who spend the most time doing it. Too often we Christians distance ourselves from science, viewing it perhaps as boring or even at war with Scripture.

The biblical writers didn’t see it that way. In fact, if you look at only one aspect of science – astronomy – the writers of the Old and New Testaments spent a great deal of time thinking about it. The Bible mentions stars more than 40 times, such as: “He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names” (Psalm 147:4). Or this one: “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host” (Psalm 33:6).

In case you haven’t heard, this month we’ll get our first-ever look at Pluto, that tiny body in our solar system that was discovered in 1930 but is so far away that it merely looks like a speck of light through telescopes. If you’re of a certain age, it was the ninth planet for decades and decades before (wrongly) being demoted to “dwarf planet” status.

NASA in 2006 launched a piano-sized spacecraft called New Horizons, which has taken nine years to trek 3 billion miles even though it is traveling at 38,000 mph. National Geographic writers, though, shouldn’t be the only ones fascinated with this mission. God’s people should be at the forefront. In fact, if Abraham, King David and even the Apostle Paul were alive, I think they would be gathering around computer screens, waiting for the latest images of Pluto to display.

Here are three lessons about God we can learn from the New Horizons mission – and can teach our children:
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3 lessons for life when your child doesn’t catch the foul ball

3 lessons for life when your child doesn’t catch the foul ballThere’s an old saying among sports aficionados that I’m just now learning to appreciate: Baseball is the ultimate father-son game.

It can’t be practiced solo, as can basketball, and unlike football, it requires that every member of a team know how to catch and throw.

So when my two young sons (ages 7 and 3) want to play baseball, they need me. It’s how most players – great and not-so-great – get their start: a father and son playing catch in the backyard.

But I don’t want them simply to play baseball in our yard, as fun as that can be. No, I also want them to watch a baseball game, in person, and to learn from players who are much better than them – and me. And I want them to appreciate everything that is unique about baseball: the peanuts, the slow pace, the quirky rules, the seventh-inning stretch.

Oh yeah, and the foul balls. No other sport lets you actually keep a ball that lands in the stands.

Which brings me to my most recent expedition to the minor-league park with my two sons, whose sole goal when going to a game is to walk away with free treasure. It’s a small park with only a few hundred fans and even fewer kids, making the odds of actually getting a ball pretty good.

Our baseball trip on this night had been wonderful. We ate cotton candy and popcorn, played in the playground, sat along the third-base line and then on the outfield grass, and even had a close encounter with the crazy mascot. But foul balls? On this night, they were few and far between.

And so we decided to leave during the sixth inning and get the boys in bed … when the unthinkable happened. While we were walking through the exit to the parking lot, a foul ball sailed back over the stands and landed about seven feet directly in front of me. I was about to sprint toward it when it took a big hop, and then another hop, and then a smaller hop before landing at the feet of a mom, who picked it up and gave it to her young son. My two boys were disappointed, believing that ball should have been theirs. They were this close to getting a ball – and to having a baseball story to tell all of their friends.
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Why you should let your child win (some) in 1-on-1 games

Why you should let your child win (some) in 1-on-1 games

My biggest hobbies as a teenager were, in order: football, basketball, baseball, hockey … and any other sport that was stuffed in the local sports page. I was a sports nut, and my family didn’t even have ESPN.

On Wednesday nights at church, my friends and I would gather on the parking lot for the fiercest pickup basketball game you’ve ever seen from uncoordinated skinny kids. On Sunday afternoons, you could find us playing touch football in the church yard, with me often being selected as what we’d call the “all-time quarterback.” During the rest of my free time, I was playing my mom and dad in one sport or another, determined to beat them, too.

Fast forward to today.

My oldest son, who is 6, is at the age where he wants to beat dad each time we play anything: board games and sports … even tag. That, of course, raises the question every parent confronts: Should I intentionally let my child win—or should I just mercilessly beat him at each contest?

It seems at first a trivial and pointless question, but it’s not. Remember that old coach who always told you that “sports teaches valuable lessons about life”? He may not have known it, but he was borrowing a scriptural theme.

The Apostle Paul—who no doubt would have watched a little bit of ESPN—compares the spiritual walk to a runner in a race eyeing the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). He further notes that “every athlete exercises self-control in all things”—implying that the Christian, too, should practice self-control in day-to-day living. It’s not the only reference to sports in Scripture (see, for example, 2 Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 12:1).

God, it seems, does see value in sports. After all, it can be a microcosm of life, and children can begin learning valuable “adult lessons” long before they’re able to apply them in the adult world. We win and lose in sports, just like in life. We learn to be disciplined and patient, to practice self-control, to be a leader, to listen to those in authority, to be responsible, to bounce back, to get up when we don’t want to, to get along with those we normally wouldn’t like, to encourage, and to share. Everything translates to life.
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5 New Year’s resolutions for a more Christ-centered family

5 family-affirming New Year’s resolutionsMy first New Year’s resolution took place as a young adult, when I pledged to read the Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—in one year. I remember enjoying Genesis and Exodus, struggling a bit with Leviticus and Numbers, and then getting bogged down in Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy at the time was like quick sand, and I never made it out.

I since have made it through Deuteronomy, but I’m still mostly a failure at New Year’s resolutions. For instance, my 2014 New Year’s resolution was to plant garlic. It’s unique and incredibly healthy, and it would save my family a bit of money. But I never even purchased a bulb.

Still, New Year’s resolutions are worth pursuing, especially when it involves something as significant as your faith or your family. While resolutions themselves aren’t mentioned in Scripture, the Bible does have a lot to say about second chances and new beginnings (Psalm 51:10-11).

I imagine even the Apostle Paul would have made New Year’s resolutions. After all, it was never-look-back Paul who wrote, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:12-15).

So what type of resolutions should parents make this year? Here are five suggestions that—if followed—are sure to change your family life for the better:
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Before they can talk: 7 ways to teach toddlers about God

Before they can talk: 7 ways to teach toddlers about GodEach night, before I put my 1-year-old daughter Maggie or her twin brother William to bed, I ask them simply, “Who made you?” They’re usually their sweetest at these moments, and they often smile while pointing heavenward and shouting in a tiny voice, “God!”

I’ve always been amazed at how quickly small children learn, even though they’re barely – if at all — talking. At 19 months Maggie learned the color yellow and was telling her surprised grandma about her beautiful “yella” dress. I’m pretty sure William knows the color “blue,” but he’s usually too rambunctious for me to stop and quiz him.

Scripture tells parents to teach their children about the Lord from an early age and to talk about Him throughout the day (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). But how do we do that when young children can’t even talk, when their attention span lasts mere seconds?

Isn’t it too early to teach them about spiritual concepts? In one, word, “no.”

We often hear that children are like “sponges.” Let them soak up God’s Word – no matter the age. Start with the “complex” subjects, and the simple ones, too. We teach our 1 year olds about Christ’s death, burial and resurrections, but we also teach them more basic concepts – for instance, simply that God made them.

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